If an elbow is injured or arthritis causes pain that can't be controlled with medication or interferes with function, surgery may be an option – or a necessity. Here are some of the most commonly performed elbow surgeries.

  • Fracture repair.  While many fractures can be healed by immobilizing the elbow in a cast, others require surgery to position the bone and, in some cases, use hardware, such as metal plates and screws, to hold the pieces in place while they heal. The procedure will depend on which bone s) has been fractured and how badly.
  • Arthroscopy. Arthroscopy is a procedure that uses a lighted scope and small surgical instruments to diagnose and repair joint problems through several small incisions instead of opening the entire joint.

Arthroscopy may be used in the elbow to diagnose tendon tears, to smooth roughened cartilage, remove loose or broken-off bits of cartilage and bone, cut away damaged tissue in tennis elbow, and repair soft tissue tears.

Read more about arthroscopy for elbows from the Hospital for Special Surgery.

Learn more about Arthroscopic surgery from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

  • Elbow replacement. For severe fractures or arthritis that causes constant pain and disability, elbow replacement may be the best – or only – option for relief. Elbow replacement involves removing the damaged joint components and replacing them with metal and plastic implants. One implant is attached to the humerus, another is attached to the ulna and the two are connected to form a hinge.

Learn more about elbow replacement from the National Library of Medicine's MedlinePlus Encyclopedia.